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‘Simulcast’ doesn’t provide anything exciting from the slew of pale electronic ambient music

‘Simulcast’ doesn’t provide anything exciting from the slew of pale electronic ambient music

‘Simulcast’ doesn’t provide anything exciting from the slew of pale electronic ambient music
March 07
16:00 2020

It’s fairly difficult to convince music listeners nowadays that ambient music isn’t boring. Sure, it’s great for studying or putting on in the background, but there are so many little nuances and layers that reveal themselves as an ambient piece advances. It can contain the complexities of classical or Baroque, while also containing the minimalism of a drone. Like many styles of music, it is vast, explorative and encapsulating. It can non-verbally display elements of human or naturistic emotion in ways that some verbal music cannot.

Tycho’s new album, “Simulcast,” does not particularly lend a helping hand to this argument. Oh, what a dull piece of art we have here.

“Simulcast” is an instrumental version of Tycho’s 2019 album, “Weather,” which somehow walked away with a Grammy nomination for Best Dance/Electronic Album. Huh? What? What are we doing here, people?

The opening track, “Weather,” elicits a fleeting emotional response with its subtle crescendos as the track moseys along at a snail’s pace. Artificial guitars poke around the musical landscape as a keyboard lead plays an arpeggio alongside them. Suddenly, a massive wave of synth breaks through as the guitar becomes a tad distorted overhead. It’s a borderline exciting moment for the album, and one that made me believe I was in for something decent. Relish this segment because it’s practically the only second of subtle euphoria the album has to offer.

“Alright” offers some cool syncopation in its rhythms and the sound of what a full band would resemble if they ran everything through a computer, which gives it a cool effect, but could also be grating. Unfortunately, the track eventually stagnates with a lacking melodic distinction. It plays out like an Explosions in the Sky B-side and enters itself into the echelon of stale and unremarkable post rock.

I’d actually argue that this album is better than 2019’s “Weather,” and it is still severely lacking in interesting song progression, aside from the opening track.

I appreciate that Tycho is an advocate for analog production techniques and his advocacy conveys itself through his engineering. The album sounds warm and rich, albeit a bit overproduced, but the overproduction doesn’t detract too much from the overall listening experience. On an above-average sound system, the album can sound good.

It is not really a bad thing when an artist sticks to one style, but I feel as if Tycho is beating his sound like a dead horse. There’s hardly any development from his arguable breakthrough album, 2011’s “Dive,” which was an overly long yet mildly pleasant exhibit of electronic ambient music inspired by the likes of Boards of Canada and Aphex Twin. Simply put, I feel as if he repackages his sound every time he puts a new project out and I’m not going to take him seriously.

There’s an audience for this type of ambient and I could see myself recommending it as an entry point for people trying to get into the style, but nothing more than that. What should be music for standing on the side of a mountain and taking in the wondrous geological structures becomes music I could listen to while playing Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 on my desktop. In fact, I’m absolutely sure I’ve built a theme park attraction to the sounds of this album before. Eh, what’s the difference anyway? Next time, Tycho, but I’m not counting on it.

Final rating: 2/5

Featured Illustration: Austin Banzon

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Nick Lawrence

Nick Lawrence

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